New Home, Same Stuff

After months of negotiations led by your hard-working real estate agent, the jitters of closing day, moving company decisions, furniture shopping or removal, a revolving assortment of paint swatches, carpet samples, and kitchen tile selection, and the actual move itself, you have arrived at your exciting destination: living your dream life in your fantastic new home!

Or that’s how you felt when you first moved. Now that the newness has worn off, you’ve unpacked the necessities and realized that there’s more tedious work to be done. Where did you get all this stuff? And where shall it go? What seems like a herculean feat can actually be broken down into more manageable steps.

• So fresh and so clean, clean

No matter the state of your unpacking, truly getting moved in is a process that will be made easier by starting with a clean slate.

Do a deep clean (or if possible, hire a cleaning service) so that your new rooms are off to a fresh start. If you don’t have time for an extreme clean makeover, simply vacuuming or sweeping before moving in new furniture will mean less mess as you get settled.

If you aren’t able to do a deep clean, designating items to be moved into storage, or organizing your basic needs like kitchen and bathroom items, can set you up well for bigger projects later.

• Make a list of short and long-term action items and goals

Even if your move was executed flawlessly, there will still be a lot to do. Scientific studies have found that getting the plans out of your tired brain and onto the page can make your workload easier to manage.

Instead of spiraling about the monumental tasks ahead, sort your ideas into short-term action items and long-term goals.

Setting aside time to daydream (and budget) for your long-term goals will be satisfying once you’ve gotten the most pressing work out of the way.

• Choosing a particular area to revitalize may unlock other design ideas for the rest of the home

While the modern go-to for decor reinvention is the handy Ikea hack, you don’t have to go all out with a design project to feel like you have refreshed a particular area of your home.

Consider rearranging the layout of an area by re-orienting furniture. Relocating certain pieces such as end tables and smaller shelves can create a new vibe, especially in small spaces.

If you like the current layout, redecorating in small ways can freshen up a room. Spring for a new rug, a house plant, or try new arrangements for surfaces like mantels and bookshelves.

• Moving things around will get your creative juices flowing

Make note of project ideas, rooms in need of some attention at a later date, or minor home repairs so they will remain on your radar.

While the desire to make everything perfect will be strong, realize that taking the time to clean spaces and get organized will be the earliest steps in a long process. Spending time to dream and plan for the future will make your hard work feel worthwhile!

Let Spring Into Your Home!

Photo by Mark McCammon from Pexels

Is winter over yet? Officially, spring began on March 20th. While the weather is a little slow to catch up, it’s the perfect time to embrace the season and give our living spaces a little refresh.

Here are some things to consider when getting your home ready for spring:

Clean Things Up

You either love spring cleaning, or you dread it. Either way, it’s a great time of year to refresh your space by washing away the signs of winter hibernation. It doesn’t have to be all ammonia and baseboard-scrubbing; start with small projects like cleaning out the fridge or freezer, then move up to larger tasks like floors and windows. Breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces can help avoid feeling overwhelmed. Open a window for some fresh air and to vent out the smell of cleaning chemicals while you’re hard at work.

Decluttering is just as important as cleaning, and you’ll be amazed at how different a room can feel after getting rid of the things that don’t bring you joy. Similar to cleaning, break organizing down into smaller bits at a time. You don’t want to be done for the day, only to realize your bed is still covered with all the boxes of clothes you’re going to donate.


Long Days, Warm Nights

You’ve made it past daylight saving time – are you prepared for all the extra daylight that spring brings with it? Sunlight affects our circadian rhythm and is a factor that tells us when it’s time for bed. Darker mornings make it easier to stay in bed in the morning, and a little bit harder to fall asleep at night. Winter’s darkness gave us time inside to relax and decompress before bed, but the late sunset of spring can make it difficult to feel tired on time. If you find yourself staying up later with the extra sunlight, make sure you are still taking the time to unwind after a long day. A nighttime routine centered on relaxation can help give structure to the end of your day so you don’t find yourself lying awake at night.

With the temperatures beginning to rise, turning the thermostat down a few degrees before bed can actually help prepare you for a deeper sleep. If you are a hot sleeper, don’t forget to change out warmer sheets for a set that breathe well and keep you comfortable. If you still find yourself warm, a mattress that sleeps cool is worth the investment and will keep you enjoying sleep for seasons to come.


Bring the Outside In

Outside your home, the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming. But how do you bring the feeling of spring into your home? The simplest way to bring the outdoors in is to include some plants in your home decor. Easy-to-maintain options that will bloom this spring include violets, lilies, and hard-to-kill succulents. Plants are a great way to embrace the season and let some refreshing color into the home while on a budget. You can also use spring colors, such as pastel greens, sky blues, or sunshine yellows in your decor to really brighten up a room and give it a spring feel. The ultimate way to refresh your space and bring some color in, however, is to repaint. An accent wall is a simple way to change the entire feel of a room and use bold colors in your living space. If you choose a bold spring color such as yellow, make sure you will be able to tie your room’s decor to the accent wall for the rest of the year.

There’s no doubt that we welcome spring with open arms. Taking a little extra time to prepare your home for spring, however, can make a big difference in enjoying the season.





Top Tips for Converting Your Home into a Vacation Rental

Photo Courtesy of: Pixabay

Please welcome back Suzie Wilson, the creator of, and today’s guest blogger! Suzie has a passion for creating soothing spaces in homes, a talent she has crafted over 20 years as an interior designer!

Are you thinking of turning your home into a money-maker? Creating a place that is the perfect getaway can be a smart solution, not only boosting your income through renters but also preparing it to be more sellable at some point down the road.

Here’s how to make changes that catch travelers’ eyes and give you great ROI. 

Welcoming Interior

When it comes to making guests feel at home, think along the lines of an interior with broad appeal. Steer clear of immensely personal style, do some decluttering, and decorate in colors that reflect what might be drawing visitors to the area. For instance, if your property is on the shoreline, sandy beiges accented with cool blues might provide the right atmosphere. A cabin, on the other hand, could warrant earthy browns and greens. Choose decor that fits the environment as well, such as airy textiles in a lakeside property, or woolly blankets for a cozy cabin. At the same time, a depersonalized and uncluttered home are keys to selling; should you put your property on the market later, you’re already one step ahead. 

Photo Courtesy of: Pixabay


Stay Abreast of Issues

If you decide to list your home in the future, give it the proper upkeep it needs to be move-in ready. At the same time, your guests will feel most welcome if you put forward a spotlessly clean, well-kept presentation. Some people elect to hire a housekeeping service for some or all of the chores, although you can do it yourself with smart cleaning strategies. Gather effective cleaning supplies so you can whiz through with minimal effort. Start by investing in a quality vacuum, and research reviews from How to Home to ensure you’re getting the best one for the job. Fill a tote with wipes, sponges, an all-purpose spray, and some hard-hitting basics like vinegar and baking soda. As you go through the property, note any maintenance concerns and make sure you tackle them before the next guests arrive. 

Make Some Upgrades

A few changes here and there can boost your property’s appeal to renters as well as buyers. Bathrooms tend to be key points in both areas, so consider some upgrades that give you a good bang for your buck. Todd Whittaker Drywall suggests certain alterations provide especially good ROI — such as Universal Design elements and new fixtures — and they are smart additions in terms of making your place more rentable as well as sellable. Top off your refreshed bathroom by assembling a welcome basket. Consider putting together some breakfast goodies or locally made soaps and lotions. For a personal touch, add a note with any quirks about the property, as well as information about the area. Include things to do and anything unique to your locale, such as a great deli, your favorite historical sites, or the location of a must-see vista. 

Photo Courtesy of: Kiddie Holidays


Safe and Secure

Many people feel a little off-kilter in a strange place. In order to feel at ease, rather than a traditional key, a keyless lock gives both you and your guests some advantages. You can change things up between visitors, and there is no worry about a key or card getting lost or stolen. If your property might stand vacant for lengths of time, your main residence is far away, or you just want to bolster peace of mind, adding a smart security system is also a plus. It could raise your home’s ROI all the more should the time come that you’re ready to sell. 

 In order to impress guests, you want your property to be well maintained and inviting. At the same time, this can be a step toward raising your home’s value, should you elect to sell at some point down the road. For the best results, aim for a great experience that will not only provide optimal ROI, but it will also make your visitors want to keep coming back.

** Suzie Wilson is proud to announce that her debut book, The Ultimate Guide to Prepping Your Home for an Open House, is COMING SOON to online retailers and bookstores near you! Filled with tips, tricks, and other advice based on her 20 years of experience in interior home design, the book will set you and your home up for success.

Staging to Sell: Tips from Interior Stylist Kelly Hurliman

Kelly Hurliman, former fashion stylist to Oprah Winfrey, now a professional interior stylist located in Chicago.  

The spring market is about to hit full speed, and getting listings to look their best is on the minds of realtors and sellers alike.  Between Pinterest and Instagram, beautiful interior images are all around, and home staging has become even more important to prepare for sale.  There are different levels of staging and whether you go for it on your own, use a realtor’s help, or hire a professional, it’s well worth the effort!  


1. Your Home Will Sell Faster – The Association of Property Scene Designers states that staged homes sell 43% more quickly than unstaged homes.  The cost is usually minimal in comparison to the increase in sale price and reduced time on the market.  Sure it costs some money up front, but not as much as your first price reduction!

2. Get the Highest Price for Your Home – A well-staged home makes the interior look inviting, comfortable, and clean.  One recent NAR survey revealed that a 1 – 3% investment on home staging yields an 8 – 10% return.  

3. Better Photos – Another recently conducted NAR poll found that 90% of potential home buyers start their property search on the internet. Staging your home increases on-line visibility, and can make it stand out in a saturated market.

Photo by Studio D Home 

4. City Folk – For suburban markets many new buyers are coming from the city.  Their age and demographic can be an insight into what they’re looking for, and it’s usually not decor stuck in the 90’s.  Staging and styling can modernize a home to appeal to this growing consumer base.


5. You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression – I say, “Do it right the first time.”  Buying a home is an emotional decision, and how a perspective buyer feels in the home is important.  Over 81% of buyers find it easier to visualize the property as their future home when it’s staged.* 


  • Editing:  

You’ll be moving and packing anyway, so time to declutter!  Any personal items, knick-knacks, family photos, or accessories should go.  You’ll be amazed at how much better a space looks just by organizing and editing. 

Photo by Staging to Sell 
  • Re-styling
A stager, stylist, or realtor can rework a space with the existing furniture, add accessories, suggest repainting, light remodeling, and bring in new decor to help freshen the home.  This is what I like to do best, and a little styling can go a long way.  The results below were accomplished with a fresh coat of paint, new art that I custom painted to replace family photos, and a few accessories. 
  • Full Staging:
There are many companies now that offer full staging services that can furnish and accessorize full rooms. This is a great option for listings where the owners have already moved out, or where the furniture and decor are very outdated. 
Photo by Elite Home Staging
  • New Construction:

Even a beautiful new home can be difficult for a buyer to visualize how they might furnish or utilize the space. Bringing in key pieces of furniture and a bit of styling can help neutralize buyer concerns and bring the design of the house to life. 

Remember, don’t take the suggestions of a  realtor or stager personally.  Everyone has their own style, but hiring a professional or realtor’s expertise helps achieve the end goal -which is to sell your home! 

Kelly Hurliman is an interior stylist who also does home staging.  She was recently listed by Chicago’s Splash Magazine as ‘Who to Watch’.
Follow her on Instagram @khurliman1

Styling the Exterior of Your Home: Small Changes, Big Impact!

Kelly Hurliman, former fashion stylist to Oprah Winfrey, now a professional interior stylist located in Chicago.  

It’s easy to come home everyday and not see the outside of your home for what it could be. You don’t need to invest big to change the look of a house, and these are some of my favorite tips to help a facade look it’s best.


They may serve a small purpose, but making the front door pretty is not one of them! Your house will simply look better without it. It’s usually an easy removal, a bit of sanding and hopefully you have a nice, solid door behind it. If not, onto #2!


Your front door is one of the bigger aesthetic pieces of the house, and luckily often the easiest to change. If it has a 90’s scroll window, change the window glass to something more classic for an instant update. Boring house? Paint the door a bright color to give it character. I love seeing a bold colored door on an otherwise plain house. Another design trick is to plant the same color flowers in front or in planters to give it an extra dose of style.


I love real wood shutters but the cost and care vs. vinyl is hard to beat. They come now in so many styles and sizes that it’s quite painless. You can also hire a handyman to do a custom flower box for less than you may think. I’m awful with plants but I do my own twice a year and it’s a worthy investment to have fresh flowers and plants (boxwoods for me) as part of the design of your home.


Almost all of the homes I gravitate to have some sort of symmetry. My house had none so I added two garden urns with said boxwoods to flank my porch. Gardening tip: Boxwoods can last all year in planters and look great in winter too!


When you move in, notice the numbers and if you don’t like them, make it a priority to change them. More modern house numbers can visually make the house seem more up to date. There are lots of on-line resources too, so don’t just think Home Depot. is a personal favorite.


If you have a generic or dated door handle, switch it out for something more modern or substantial. You can also re-plate most metals if you have something vintage and want to change it (think 80’s brass to more modern chrome). Al Bar Platers in Wilmette are experts at this (


Yes this is big ticket, but the payoff of pulling into your house everyday and loving what you see is worth it. Plus it’s often an advantage in resale. I can personally say that I’ve done ALL these things to my house, and it’s finally my version of the best it can be. Originally creamy yellow with brown trim, we painted the house white, the trim charcoal, removed the screen door, re-plated the door hardware to polished nickel, added a modern door knocker and kick plate, new house numbers, shutters and a custom flower box.

(Sorry, I never got a ‘before’ shot so couldn’t use my own but here’s an example!)

Cushing Custom Homes, Inc.

So whether you’re house hunting or have simply been thinking about a change for years, know that you can re-style your exterior to completely change the look of your house!

50 Shades of (Anything But) Grey

Kelly Hurliman, former fashion stylist to Oprah Winfrey, now a professional interior stylist located in Chicago. 

Don’t Paint First

Does this sound familiar?  You just bought a house in need of updating, so your first instinct is to break out the fan deck.  Try to resist! Painting should actually come last in the design process.  Unless you already know the furniture, rug, fabric, pillows, and artwork that’s going in the room – it’s best to wait.  That way you’re not forced to coordinate pieces around the color.  Once you have all the room’s elements chosen, it’s much easier to pick the right shade.  You want a newly designed room to look intentional and well thought out.  This will help! 


Use Sample Pots

It’s worth it to test the actual color either on the wall, or on a large square of poster board that you can easily move.  Apply two coats and test it on different areas of the room, as the color will alter depending on the light. Check it at different times of day to make sure you like it as much in natural vs. artificial light.


Have Fun in Powder and Dining Rooms 

While it does make sense to play it safe in your main living areas, there are some rooms where it can pay to go bold.  Dining rooms, hallways, and powder rooms are usually smaller, easier to change, and provide an opportunity to be playful.  If a room isn’t used much I say go for high style and make an impact!

Photo by Andrea Schumacher Interiors                                          Photo by Melanie Elston Interiors                 

For Soft and Relaxing, Go Lighter than you Think

One mistake I often see is not going light enough when you want a hint of color.  Think of nurseries where the pink becomes extreme bubblegum.  A paint chip of light pink gets dark very fast when applied to the whole room.  I’ve made this mistake myself when I wanted my living room to be the perfect hint of lavender.  Even a sample pot couldn’t stop this train from looking like a 7-year-old girl’s bedroom.  I knew I was going to repaint the minute I saw it done.  Lesson learned, and now it is the perfect ‘adult’ shade of lavender blush.  


Photo by David Kleinberg Design Associates


The Case Against Grey 

I love grey – always have.  I recently went to a trend forecasting discussion however, and confirmed it: the industry’s moving away from grey.  So if you just bought a house or are looking to design a new room think outside of grey!  Look to Pinterest for inspiration and don’t be afraid to be different.  AND if you have grey rooms, don’t worry.  My own family room?  Benjamin Moore Nimbus 1465.  

It was also chosen 4 years ago, though – looking ahead, I’m trying to steer clients away from grey.  One because it’s EVERYWHERE, and why have a room or kitchen that looks like everyone else’s?  And two because it will have more staying power.  The best thing about paint?  It’s has potential for big impact, while also being easy to change.  My charcoal dining room became black in a day and I just had to change out some decor and art!

 Kelly Hurliman Design

Check the links below to see more of Kelly’s style!

Kelly’s Top 5 Rules for Styling Your House Like a Pro

Kelly Hurliman, former fashion stylist to Oprah Winfrey, now a professional interior stylist located in Chicago.  

1. Learn to EDIT

If there’s one thing most designers will tell you to do, it’s edit your home. That means everything from removing the clutter to taking things off the shelves that you don’t love. You will almost always yield a better result with fewer, yet higher-quality pieces. And for decorative bookcases that don’t serve a function?  Be creative!  Style them purposefully with pieces that make you happy and go for a clean, curated look.  More to come on this topic in future posts!


Design by Marie Flanigan Interiors


A vignette around a family portrait by my 5 yr old son. 


2. Keep (A Few) of Your Best Family Photos on the 1st Floor 

We all love our children and family, but if you want a polished look, too many pictures in various unmatched frames is not the way to go. Focus on a few of your best shots – I gravitate more towards candid photos rather than posed – and place them in coordinating (same style) or matching frames. Group them together in a specific area so they create an interesting vignette and focal point.  Place the rest upstairs or store in photo books.  I guarantee it will give you a more stylized look.


Simple black and white shots.


Photo by This is Glamorous 


3. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Something Old 

Last year on a home tour I remember walking into a beautiful ‘modern Victorian’ home and noticing there wasn’t one vintage or antique piece in the entire house.  Old things have soul – not to mention they were often made better.  Quality and age brings character.  Old books, vintage chairs and light fixtures; these pieces are often more unique and sometimes even less expensive than buying new.  It may take a bit of finesse shopping but it’s worth the extra time in my book.  CraigslistChairish, eBay, and local resources like are great places to start. But if you’re like me and enjoy the thrill of the hunt, hit the flea markets and estate sales!


A unique MCM (mid-century modern) and customizable piece from MegMade


Vintage lighting at the Golden Triangle in Chicago. 


4. Buy REAL Art 

One of the biggest challenges I hear from people wanting a finished look is where to buy artwork.  Finding that perfect piece, something that you (and your spouse) love, that’s also affordable?  Not an easy task. Personally, I’d rather wait and find it over time rather than buying something just to hang on the wall.

Etsy is great for affordable, original art.  Narrow down your search by entering words like ‘original oil painting – print’.  This should take away anything that isn’t original.  You can also sort by color and price.  Photography is another great option.  Print large, black and white photos of your own shots – is a great resource for printing.  Serena and Lily also have an original art section that’s very curated.  And if you need something quick and inexpensive, take a child’s artwork and place it in an oversized, clean white Target frame for instant (and EXTREMELY rare) original art.


Black and white photography found on


An original art piece I recently created for a client, acrylic on wood board. 


5. Don’t Let the Kids Take Over the House

Let’s remember who’s paying the bills around here! I’m a firm believer that toys don’t belong in every room.  Editing and a little creative storage can simplify the cleanup process and make it possible to live in a stylized space with little ones.

I’ve had friends ask, “How can you have a 3-year-old AND a glass bar cart in the dining room?”  Truth is, after kids explore something they shouldn’t touch a couple times they usually forget it’s there.  It’s ok to have some areas where the kids aren’t allowed to play, so keep toys in the basement or have a designated area in the family room.  Let them help clean up at the end of the day – it’s hard to feel good about your space if it’s cluttered with toys.  Trust me, the words ‘no TV or iPad time before your toys are picked up’ are very powerful!